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House Republican Leader Candelora Calls on SOTS to Provide Details on Absentee Ballot Application Controversy, Urges Investigation

Posted on October 15, 2021

HARTFORD — House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora on Friday called on Secretary of State Denise Merrill to provide greater detail on communication between her office and political campaigns or consultants that sought guidance on rules associated with distributing unsolicited absentee ballot applications with pre-filled voter data such as names and dates of birth.

“We spent a good portion of the last year listening to legislative Democrats and Secretary Merrill say that in order to keep people safe we had to add ‘COVID-19’ to the reasons why residents could vote by absentee ballot. While not altogether unsurprising, it’s sickening to now see what appears to be a cynical effort by their party to exploit this temporary measure and flood the state with thousands of pre-filled ballot applications that run afoul of the rules,” said House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora, who represents the 86th District covering North Branford and parts of Guilford, Durham and Wallingford.

Distributing a pre-filled absentee ballot application increases the likelihood of the voter sending it in because it removes work—filling out the form—from the process, Candelora said. But state statute requires the distributor of such applications to identify themselves as an “assistor” and sign a declaration that they helped to fill out the application. Controversy arose recently when residents in towns such as Guilford, Stratford, and Shelton received unsolicited pre-filled ballots featuring digital signatures from the assistors rather than real “wet-ink” signatures.

“Doing it that way has allowed campaigns to flood communities with thousands of pre-filled absentee ballot applications during this municipal election cycle, something that would have been incredibly difficult to do if those who distributed them signed each application as the law requires,” Candelora said.

Secretary Merrill’s office has chalked it up to “imprecise language” it used in communication between staff and “a representative of various campaigns across the state,” adding that many campaigns may have understandably relied on those emails to believe that it was permissible to use a reproduced signature on the pre-filled applications.”

Candelora said residents deserve more information about what has transpired.

“A simple ‘oops we made a mistake’ response from the person who revels in telling residents how hard she works to protect the integrity of our elections isn’t good enough, and on this issue Secretary Merrill should be more transparent about her office’s communications with campaigns or consultants that employed this tactic while also providing details about the communities affected and the number of applications that went out,” Candelora said. “Absent that approach, a large portion of our state’s population will continue to have concerns about the integrity of our absentee ballot process. If her office isn’t forthcoming, I hope the State Elections Enforcement Commission will immediately open its own investigation separate from any that may eventually be triggered by a citizen complaint it has received.”